Rihanna for September Issue of British Vogue – interviewAugust 1, 2018
Rihanna is the cover star of British Vogue’s September Issue. She is also the first black woman to grace the September Issue’s cover in British Vogue’s 102-year history.
I transcribed the interview from scans that are already available online so you can read it in full without having to zoom in on pictures. Make sure to read it since it is such an interesting interview!
The sun has not long set on an early summer’s evening when Rihanna, dressed in khaki leather, her hair scraped back off her face, skin luminous with Fenty, descends upon Vogue House. Conde Nast’s HQ often plays host to stars but few have the megawatt sparkle of Rihanna: 54 million album and 210 million track sales, countless streams, nine British number one singles, nine Grammys, untold cultural and fashion influence, and a burgeoning beauty empire that is now stocked in 1,600 shops worldwide (most of them complete with a long, snaking queue on product-release days.
“Edwaaard!” she calls out to the magazine’s editior-in-chief, with whom she has a long-standing friendship. “Finally, I get to see your offices!” Her entourage is double-digit deep, and makes for quite a sight as they all pour in, navigating their way into a room overburdened with rails packed with clothes, glittering heels in every colour of the rainbow, and moodboards stacked high on the desk. “I should give you more love, but I’m distracted by… all this,” says the 30-year old Bajan, gesturing towards the delights. She’s here to discuss her Vogue September cover, which she and Edward have spent months working on, going back and forth via text and email, sending references and runway looks to each other – but this is the first moment they have been in a room together, after endless late-night phone calls and transatlantic streams of visuals. Their relationship is one of mutual admiration: “You’re a legend,” exclaims Rihanna, as they look through the rails, finalising ideas for the images they will capture the following day. “Why are you so major?” asks Edward, laughing, when they eventually find a quiet corner to talk.
Edward: The first time we worked together was in 2014, and you know what I remember? I remember your hands. Everything was controlled, right down to your fingers. When I work with you we always go into a tunnel of ideas – we’re not scared to push it. What else do we have in common?
We black [laughs].
We started young.
I think everyone thinks that when you start young, it’s just easy and glamorous. They don’t realise that you’re practically a child.
It definitely is harder. It may seem like it’s always too late to start when you’re older, but starting in an industry really young, like, it’s not necessarily something you would want for your own kid. It was a culture shock. I was only 17 when I did my first promotional tour and they drove me from one side of the West Coast all the way to Reno, and I stopped at every radio station – then, in the car, I would do phone interviews. I was doing interviews on my way to the next interview.
I feel when you grow older, nothing changes really, but you learn to…
R: Balance. Finding a balance becomes a priority, even if you don’t get it down, that’s always a goal, you know. Not necessarily to neglect work, it will never be that, but to find a way you feel fulfilled.
Your team have been with you from the beginning. You fight for your people, that’s what I love about you.
R: I’m very picky about friends. I don’t like to open myself up to everyone and so when you find people who are great and loyal, you don’t want to let go of that. I’ve been out here on my own since I was a teenager, so these people become like your family.
As an artist; you never like to repeat yourself in whatever you do. Why is that?
It’s just my mood. I get bored and I feel like, why not try something else? As an artist in this day and age, everything is driven by some kind of visual aspect. You want to push it and not have it be predictable. The only thing I can stick to is probably a pair of jeans.
You’re not scared to try new genres. Do you think growing up in Barbados had something to do with that?
Yes. Especially with music. Music didn’t play a lot in my household in Barbados, for one. It just didn’t. I would record songs from the radio on to cassettes and, like, write the lyrics and pause and rewind and write the lyrics. In the Caribbean music is reggae, soca and a lot of slow songs – they love ballads. But then hip-hop started to get bigger around the whole 50 Cent, Ja Rule era and when I came to America, I found all these different artists and genres. I finally knew what Madonna actually looked like. I treated music like it was candy. I could just pick up different things and play with it.
What are some of the highs of your career?
Definitely getting my first Grammy. But the awards become less and less significant as you really start to understand the industry. The people who you care about are your fans – as long as they’re happy, you’re happy. That really should be it. But I get so afraid of disappointment. I don’t like that feeling. I never want to get too excited about something or even relish a moment, because I don’t know what’s going to happen.
How does it feel performing in front of 100,000 people?
Well, actually, performing in front of 100,000 people is so much easier than performing to 10 people on camera. It’s really about knowing that these people are there for you. They’re there to see you because they love your music and you share that in common. Y’all are only meeting on that one premise. And that’s it, you just go out there and that’s exactly what you’re going to give them.
What advice do people ask you for the most?
I get a lot of boy-advice questions. I think a lot of people meet people and then they’re dating the idea of what the person could become, and that person never shows up and then they’re just mad disappointed. A person can always get better, they can always get worse, but you’ve got to be fine with what you met them as.
You’re the one woman that every woman I know fancies. It’s true! Why is that?
Ok, you’re asking the wrong person. I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m ‘thicc’ now. I don’t know.
Can I just say, I love your body like this.
I’m about to get back into the gym and stuff, and I hope I don’t lose my butt or my hips or all of my thighs. I’ll lose some but not all. And I think of my boobs, like, ‘Imma lose everything, everything goes!’ But, you know, it comes with a price. You want to have a butt, then you have a gut.
But you’re empowering so many women.
No, I love it. I just need to get healthy and stay healthy because I’m 30 now, you know, I can’t play them games no more. Can’t play the mac’n’cheese-in-the-middle-of-the-night games.
Many musicians try to launch their own businesses, but with Fenty Beauty, you have really launched a global brand.
R: Thank you. It was not some groundbreaking idea or anything. I just approached make-up the way I would approach anything else. I didn’t really expect people to have this emotional connection to the brand because they’ve discovered their skin in a bottle, on a shelf, for the first time. It’s the thing that brings me closer, even now, to the customer.
What do you think drove you to think differently from the rest?
The obvious – you want women to feel like you are thinking about them and that they are included, regardless.
Amen to that.